I went by myself on Monday to go see Arrival, hoping that I could basically pay $8 for inspiration for my weekly blog post. While my head is swirling with ideas, I got way more from this movie than I could have ever expected. I'm not going to spoil anything in this post, but you should go see this movie.
The past week on the internet has been a hellscape. I don't know why I'm surprised, but between the people who are depressed about our Trumpy president and the people who are claiming that Trump is a symbol for American renewal, I had to take a step back.
Often times, when someone ditches Facebook they wanted to be lauded as a hero. Usually, their post starts off much like this one and what follows is summed up as "At the end of the day, I realized I'm better than you internet-obsessed lemmings. I'm off to go fulfill my greater calling now."
I don't want to come off in that high-roady way because I'm not actually leaving Facebook or Twitter, I have just made it much easier to avoid by removing the apps from my phone. Like I've said before, you are what you eat, and when everyone is sharing trash in my newsfeed it takes every fiber in my being to not respond with trash right back. Reading and commenting on this garbage does affect you in real life, despite our feelings of it all being compartmentalized to the virtual world. Myself and many others' have become bitter and depressed over the past few months based purely on the what they take in online.
Let's be real, we are consumers, and the internet is a platter being served to us without our having to get up. We have to go out of our way to experience and consume something good.
What I'm talking about is watching or reading something when you're not in the mood. Say you've been deep diving into the depressing nature of the election. You've been reading trash all day, so you just want to unwind with something light. You go into Netflix and what do you do? You probably go watch Ghosts of Girlfriends Past or something. Most likely, trash. Because it's easy to take in.
On Monday, that was the situation I was in. After coming off of a 7 day work week, I really wanted to lay on the couch and watch whatever took the least amount of brain power. If you walked into my living room, I would appear like a host in diagnostic mode (with clothes on), totally shut off to the real world.
This went on for a while, but I eventually got up and forced myself to get up and go see something worthwhile.
I feel like many of us believe the fallacy that all movies, tv, books, and music need to be entertainment or fun. If it is not fun, then it is written off. I believe, however, we almost shouldn't enjoy (in the plainest sense of the word) many movies/books/tv. Not all books or movies are meant to be entertainment, but if we only see them that way than we end up missing out on a lot. It's like if you came home to unwind from a long day and ate an entire pizza. Imagine doing that every day. You become a worthless blob. Well, by watching formulaic, procedural network television every day, you're eating a mind-pizza every day. We need a salad every once in a while.
(this argument falls flat because i hate salad and often don't eat it. also pizza is way better than formulaic network television. ignore my flimsy argument and move on)
That's why I saw Arrival. I didn't necessarily want to see it. I kept having flashbacks of the Keanu Reeves remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, and almost expected Arrival to be a commercial for some sort of social agenda since that is the purpose of much scifi these days. You know, the whole "humans are the real villain of this story" thing. There might have been a little of that in Arrival, but I did not leave with such a lesson in my head. What I watched was an incredibly well-told story about parenthood and the art of language. It was a Nolan-esque film, but like the good kind of Nolan-esque not the Dark Knight Rises/Interstellar Nolan-esque. (Maybe I'll make an AFAIK about my hatred for Dark Knight Rises one day)
Arrival wasn't necessarily entertainment, although it certainly could check that block, but rather, an art piece. The editing, the cinematography, and the writing was nothing short of beautiful. It was an experience, one that took brain power, one that could not be taken in passively.
I often sound crazy for making such assertions. I have no doubt that I will get messages from people saying I've oversold the movie, or they just didn't get it, or it was boring or whatever. Often times I go into a movie wanting something from it, and it gives me nothing back. This time, I went in expecting nothing, and I got something incredible, something unexpectedly intricate. It hit me in the right way at the right time. Maybe if it was midnight on a weekday I wouldn't have been able to stay awake and it would have simply been a well-conceived lullaby. But rather, it was Monday at 2pm, so I was present.
I often recommend Breaking Bad, and most of the time people say it was too slow or violent or something. To me, it was an incredible story about a man's ego destroying him and his family. It was an illustration that hit me at the right time and place in life. The ride was entertaining, dark, but all of it was necessary to the story. If a man's head being crushed by ATM is all you see, then you won't be able to get to the valuable message of this story.
We have to be willing to learn something or take something away. It's a choice. For instance, on the next episode of the podcast, Kenneth and I are discussing Contagious by Jonah Berger. It's not a book I would normally read. It's more in Kenneth's wheelhouse of being more of something I would get assigned in a business class. I wanted to get something out of it, even if it didn't interest me on the face. Turns out, after finishing the book, I learned a hell of a lot. Normally, I would glaze over at book like this (and probably would have it a professor assigned it to me), but I wanted something out of it.
Just to be clear, there's a place for "mind-pizza" (unless it's network television. i don't like network television). I watched London Has Fallen this week while writing this. Maybe I'm a hypocrite. All I'm saying is that if you find your self miserable in this consumer-y age, maybe take a look at the things you surround yourself with. Take some things away, bring some things in that you wouldn't have before. We are going to watch/read/listen to things constantly nowadays (we almost have no choice), might as well make them good and worthwhile.